Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Legless Goes To Body And Soul (2014)

Some tired bodies and emotional souls

Body and Soul
Ballinlough Castle, Co. Westmeath

This was my first proper time giving Body and Soul a go. I was there two years ago - when I first started using a wheelchair - and had to trundle home, defeated, thanks to the rain, the mud and the exhaustion. With the glorious weather being the ultimate guest of honour, I decided to try Body and Soul properly. In doing so, I used them for all the access treats they had on offer. They had an Access Officer, Maggie McKeever, who made sure everything went to plan and, lo and behold, it did.

Body and Soul is one of the smaller festivals and for every ten metres you walk, you will run into a familiar face. The music was obviously a big draw (highlights including Gary Numan, Tom Vek, Darkside and John Grant) but it's such a fun and magical festival. We got lost in the forest so many times but we were never in a rush to get anywhere because every corner had something going for it.

What has it got?

Seating:  All throughout the Body and Soul site, there are many places to rest your weary legs and, as the photo above shows, heads. Be it benches, chairs carved out of trees, thrones, picnic tables or just regular chairs, you will definitely find a place for a quiet moment.

Viewing platform:  At every stage, there was a viewing platform. However, the spirit of the festival is to be involved so placing yourself on a wooden slab away from all the action isn't ideal. I've often wondered what the thinking of keeping people with disabilities as far away from all the fun at festivals/concerts is. If there was a way to rethink the location of viewing platforms so that whoever sits there doesn't feel totally isolated, I am all ears.

Ground:  The rough ground was a bit of a struggle. There wasn't a drop of rain all weekend or the week leading up to the festival so we had no mud. That was a major coup. However, the paths had quite rough stones on them which meant that we had to tip my wheelchair back like a wheelbarrow to get around so I couldn't really go anywhere on my own. Luckily, I always keep a team of men at my beck and call for this.

Campsite: This was my first time ever using the Access Campsite at any festival. Using this facility was a big thing for me as it meant admitting that my needs are actually different from others.
This year, the Access Campsite was beside the castle and just beyond the walled garden. We had plenty of space to set up our tent without the cursed strings and poles becoming obstacles.
The biggest advantage of the Access campsite is that you can park your car right beside your tent. This meant that we didn't have to lug our belongings for miles. I had to apply online for this campsite and the Access Officer was there to meet me and gave me and my mates (as many as I wanted) separate wristbands so we could all stay there for the weekend.
I'll definitely be doing access camping from here on out because it just made life so easy.

Bathrooms: For every gaggle of portaloos, there was a larger and accessible wheelchair portaloo. Glamorous they were not but they did the job and weren't difficult to find. It's important to remember that people in wheelchairs do not have the, hovering abilities as others so the toilets could have been cleaner.

Spaciousness: The only time that space was an issue was when we tried to get into the Midnight Circus tent for Jon Hopkins. Not for love nor money could we squeeze in.

Helpfulness of Staff: Very helpful. The security were cheery and informative and if you ever asked to take a shortcut to make your trek easier, they gave you all the industry secrets.

Rating: 8/10

Why did it lose points? The weather was the best thing to happen to Body and Soul, in terms of access. If the weather was bad, this rating would have dropped to below sea level.  It was dry and the ground was solid - you couldn't ask for anything more. However, nature being nature, the forest area was tough to manoeuvre and I felt that they could have done more with the entrance/exit points to the main arena to make the journey less bumpy. 
The use of the Access Officer was a brilliant idea. Body and Soul is so small so she could help people out easily and it truly was a great asset. 
Overall, my weekend was incredible, even if I did build up my muscle making my way across the land 

Other festivals reviewed here.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bell and Pot Café Kitchen

Bell and Pot Café Kitchen
3 Mercer Lane, Dublin 2

I was really excited about visiting Bell and Pot. It had sandwiches GALORE, had a twee theme to it and wasn't too far from my bus stop. It had it all. Sadly, my expectations were not met in terms of access. I shall reveal ALL below.

What has it got?

Seating:  The tables all have moveable chairs but not many of the chairs have arms to help you get up. Some of the seats are quite low but they all vary in height and size.

Doors:  The front door was quite heavy to open - had to ask someone to come and push it open for me.

Ground:  Wooden floors.

Stairs: The restaurant space is flat but the ladies and gents are downstairs.

Bathrooms: The wheelchair bathroom is in the Travelodge Hotel, which is attached. You have to go through two rooms and it is there. Sadly, I could not fit my wheelchair in. And believe me, I tried every which way. My wheelchair is not big but if you're without a wheelchair, they have bars and railings a-plenty.

Spaciousness: Other than not fitting into the wheelchair bathroom, there was plenty of space in the seating areas.

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff were helpful with picking out food and with the door.

Parking: There are two wheelchair parking spots outside the Royal College of Surgeons and two more in front of Stephen's Green Shopping Centre, which are just around the block. There is plenty of other on street parking available.

Rating: 5/10

Why did it lose points? Sadly, the Bell and Pot lost points because of the wheelchair bathroom and the difficult door to open. The fact that it was a specifically designed and planned wheelchair bathroom and yet totally failed to serve its - eh - purpose was quite disappointing. The food is fine and I probably won't be returning here myself but if you wanna try it out and see if you can slither into the bathroom, by all means, be my guest. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Diep Le Shaker

Diep Le Shaker
55 Pembroke Lane, Dublin 2

Diep is known as one of the finest places in  Ireland to get Thai food with a separate noodle bar and a great takeaway service too. Diep Le Shaker is their swanky restaurant and I was lucky enough to be given a voucher for their 6 course tasting menu so instead of eating like a pig, I ate like pig royalty for an evening. The food and cocktails were incredible and I just salivate thinking about the grilled pork dumplings.

What has it got?

Seating:  The tables have moveable chairs as well as fixed couches to the wall. There are no arms on the chairs.

Doors:  The entrance has double doors that are light to open and the rest of the doors are wide and easy to push open.

Ground:  The floors are wooden panels, which could be a bit of a hazard when wet.

Stairs: The entrance is flat. There are tables upstairs but everything you will need is on the ground floor.

Bathrooms: They have a wheelchair bathroom that is big enough for an average sized wheelchair with bars and handrails too.

Spaciousness: It might be a bit tight making your way through the restaurant if all of the tables are full.

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff are very attentive here. Not only will they help you with your order if you're bad at making decisions, if you need assistance, they will clear the way for you and also open doors. Very helpful. 10 points for the staff.

Parking: There is a lot of parking available around Fitzwilliam Square with a number of wheelchair parking spots. However, the path is a little bit uneven to and from.

Rating: 9.5/10

Why did it lose points? It lost half a point simply because some of the tables are quite close together so you will have to ask people to move chairs if you are going through the restaurant. Other than that, fantastic staff with even better food.